By DAVID ROBERTS
Howland Community News correspondent
Howland Township has plenty of history and luckily, for young and old residents alike, some are taking the steps to preserve history for future generations.
Howland Community News / David Roberts
Bill Griffin, of Howland and an Ernie Hall aficionado, is turning Sloas Airfield on North River Road into a museum to celebrate the pilot and his contributions to aviation.
Thanks in large part to one particularly famous Howland resident Ernie Hall, a pioneer in aviation, local history is starting to take flight.
Ernie Hall, a lifelong Howland native, lived from 1897 to 1972. He has the distinguished honor of being an Early Bird, a term used for pilots who flew solo before 1916. The credentials go on for Hall, as a pioneer aviator who personally knew the Wright brothers, the inventors of aviation. He started giving flight lessons in 1913 at Conneaut Lake before opening up the Ernie Hall Airport on Route 46 in Howland in 1923, which he operated until his death.
Hall also built planes, and successfully built his first of many in 1911. Several of his planes are on display in museums throughout the county, including the Smithsonian.
While Hall has the accolades that adorn his legacy, he is still rather unknown. That is where men like Bill Griffin and Warner Taiclet come into play. Both men are working to preserve the story of not only Ernie Hall but also all of Howland's history.
Bill Griffin, a Howland native, like Hall is an aviation aficionado, which helped fuel his passion in creating a local history museum. When Griffin was a young boy, his backyard was Hall's runway, so the young Griffin had the opportunity to interact with the storied pilot. It is from this youthful intrigue that led Griffin to purchase Sloas Airfield on North River Road and turn it into a museum.
"I've always been fascinated by him, which is why I was inspired to build this," Griffin said. "Not only is it a museum about Ernie Hall but a museum about aviation from the Trumbull and Mahoning counties," he said.
Griffin said he hopes local residents will contribute artifacts related to local aviators and their stories.
According to Griffin, currently there is a runway and a newly built hangar, adorned with varied history related memorabilia and, of course, planes. So far, the museum project has been privately funded by donations and sponsorships from businesses and a fundraiser, Wings and Wheels.
The next phase for the project is to build a second hangar to serve as the museum for the exhibits. Feb. 22 is set for the groundbreaking; the plan is to name it Hall Flying School, in honor of the man who provided the inspiration. Griffin hopes to have the hangar finished by Aug. 1, in time for the second Wings and Wheels.
"Last year, we had 5000 people and we hope to double that this year," Griffin said.
Perhaps in the next two years according to Griffin, the plan is to open a small diner in a donated train car for museum visitors. Griffin is hoping the museum will become a place that gets parents and kids excited for history, and perhaps the opportunity for plane rides too.
The aviation museum isn't the only historical project in the works. Warner Taiclet, President of the Howland Historical Society, also is undertaking a project to build a Howland History Museum in the basement of the administration building on Niles-Cortland Road.
"We're asking for 3D historical artifacts regarding anything in Howland's history," Taiclet said.
Because Ernie Hall was a Howland native, his legacy can be found in the museum as well. The goal is to provide Howland residents the opportunity to visualize as best as the possible the over two hundred year history of the township.
In order to create enriching historical environments, the hope is local residents will have things to contribute. Whether through item donation or a temporary loan, both would be very much welcome. In regards to memorabilia for the aviation museum at Sloas Airfield, contact Bill Griffin at 330-207-9859 or firstname.lastname@example.org. As for artifacts for the Howland Historical Society Museum, contact Warner Taiclet at 330-856-1115.